Long Term, It May Be Bowyer Who Loses The Most

The tribal council has spoken. Fines are levied, a suspension is handed down, and points are deducted- “Spingate” has collected more than it’s share of damage, from the willing participants to the victims of circumstance.

The Chase hopes of Martin Truex Jr. are dashed, Ryan Newman gets a reprieve, and Jeff Gordon can only wonder what might have been. Michael Waltrip Racing’s Ty Norris (the orchestrator of Brian Vickers superfluous pit stop) get to sit and stew a while, and Waltrip gets a lighter wallet. The crew chiefs of all three MWR cars get the stink eye courtesy of the powers that be. While on first glance it looks like Clint Bowyer got off easy, let’s think long term.

Until Saturday night at Richmond, Bowyer was the quintessential good ol’ boy with a Kansas twist; an Elvis lovin’, car collecting, beer drinkin’ rags to riches story. The 2012 Chase runner-up may not have had the most decorated trophy case, but was well-respected for his driving ability. He may not have enjoyed the same rarified air of a Dale Earnhardt Jr. in terms of popularity, but has historically been one of the more well-liked drivers in the garage. The potential for Bowyer to become a great feel good story in the pantheon of NASCAR history has been there, but that’s all changed after the 2013 Federated Auto Parts 400.

Bowyer may have only been found guilty by association (as part of MWR), and while Mike Helton says NASCAR cannot conclusively prove the ‘15’ spun out on purpose, the battle for Bowyer has been lost in the court of public opinion. Yes, it would be difficult to try this in a court of law, but in the court of public opinion, if you listen to the radio, if you watch the video, something is fishy in Denmark.

Look at the results: Martin Truex becomes something of a sympathetic character because he didn’t ask for this kind of help. Owner Michael Waltrip doesn’t lose much, because frankly, in the minds of many a fan, he couldn’t fall much further as something of a NASCAR court jester. Ty Norris? I don’t think anyone but a handful of hard core fans could pick out the team exec in a police lineup of politicians and corporate charlatans. Bowyer is the one member of the group with a high profile and good standing- something not easy to come by in a sport where most have at least a few enemies. Until now, not even is Fall, 2012 sparring partner, Jeff Gordon, had any real bitter resentment towards Bowyer.

W

hile NASCAR didn’t really pin anything on Bowyer, a signifcant number of minds have been made up; Bowyer took a dive for a teammate. Team orders or no, you have to think long term. Clint Bowyer knows what he was thinking and he has himself 24/7 to live with. Someday, Clint Bowyer may find himself looking for a new ride. Would you want to hire him? Imagine what his sponsors are thinking right now. I can’t imagine 5 Hour Energy is too thrilled with this. If my boss told me to pull some stunt like that, I’d tell them to stick their team orders where the sun doesn’t shine. My teammate might get something from my intentional spin (how did that work out?), but I would effectively get squat, left with the feeling I had sold my soul for ill-gotten success.

It doesn’t set well with this fan. Oh sure, it’s not the first time it’s happened. It’s probably safe to say there are scores of incidents we’ll never know about. We know about this one. This will dog Clint Bowyer the rest of his career. It may not matter to him….but it should. Competition is what makes a sport. The decisions made by Team Waltrip do nothing but feed the perception that NASCAR isn’t but one level removed from pro wrestling.